The study, for which FreshAddress examined 100 million customer records, marks the first time FreshAddress has attempted to quantify its success in e-mail "appending," or tying e-mail addresses to names and street addresses. The average success rate for commercial senders was 12 percent for individuals and 16 percent for households. Efforts to find new e-mail addresses for customers who had changed accounts met with an 8 percent success rate.
Natalie Hahn O'Flaherty, the company's marketing director, said she believes the company--which has been in the e-mail appending business since 1999--is becoming more successful at matching offline and online information than in the past.
Still, the practice remains somewhat controversial, because many consumers recoil at the idea of being sent e-mails when they haven't volunteered their e-mail addresses. O'Flaherty stressed that when FreshAddress discovers consumers' e-mail addresses, the first message it sends asks whether the recipient would like to receive more e-mail communications.
Nonetheless, some consumers find unsolicited e-mail extremely offensive, said e-mail marketing expert (and MediaPost columnist) Melinda Krueger of Krueger Direct/Interactive. "You just have to be careful, because it's such an intrusive and offensive practice," she said.
In February, one disgruntled consumer complained in a blog about Miller Brewing Company's e-mail appending; the entry was then picked up by popular blog site BoingBoing. "I filled out a web form for a contest from Miller using a throwaway junk e-mail address and then, months after I dumped the throwaway account, I got this to my main account! Not sure I like the idea of companies tracking me down like this," griped the consumer.